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Israel Says Palestinian Statehood Bid Would End Talks
Israeli newspapers lately have carried headlines warning of a "diplomatic tsunami" headed to the region in September from the United Nations.
Palestinians want the General Assembly to vote on a resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood. The move could set internationally recognized borders for a Palestinian state on territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war.
But Israeli officials insist it will change little on the ground. And the Palestinians are trying to take a page from Israeli history to serve their cause.
Ready For Statehood?
A video stream of a European Union news conference in Brussels was closely monitored at Israel's government offices in Jerusalem. Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative, spoke about a report that shows ways in which the Palestinians have made progress toward statehood.
"The Palestinian Authority has made significant progress. Today Palestinian institutions compare favorably with those in the West," she said.
Over the past month, there has been a flood of reports drawing the same conclusion, from the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations as well as the European Commission. They've studied the police force, municipal services and schools, and they say they believe the Palestinians are nearly ready to run their own state.
In Israel, these reports make many people nervous. They increase the chances that this September, the Palestinians will succeed in their bid to win formal U.N. recognition of statehood.
Danny Ayalon, Israel's deputy foreign minister, repeatedly uses the word "unfortunate" when he talks about the Palestinians' decision to take the issue to the U.N.
"I think their unilateral approach is very unfortunate," he says. "I don't think it's a service for the national interest of the Palestinians or a service for all of us in the region."
Ayalon expresses the view of many in the Israeli government when he says the declaration of a Palestinian state by the U.N. would harm peace efforts.
Palestinian officials haven't announced the wording of the resolution they intend to submit to the U.N. General Assembly, but they have publicly hinted that they will call for recognition of 1967 borders.
That would include all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where Israel currently has some 500,000 settlers living in communities protected by the army. Palestinians say those communities are illegal and should be evacuated under international law. Israel says they are a part of greater Israel, and it hopes many will remain under a peace deal.
In previous negotiations, the two sides have talked about a territorial swap that would allow some of the settlements to remain under Israeli control.
'The End Of The Peace Process'
But Ayalon argues that by taking the vote to the U.N., the Palestinians will put an end to the decades-long peace process.
"A unilateral approach and, certainly, their formal request of the United Nations would mean the end of the peace process," Ayalon says. "I think it will be a blow to the international community's efforts, to the Quartet, to the American leadership. I believe it will also further destabilize the situation."
But Palestinian officials argue that a vote by the U.N. will help, not hinder, peace talks.
"I believe that negotiating in that status would be much more fruitful than the situation we are in right now," says Dimitri Diliani, a Palestinian Council member who is involved in preparing the resolution for the U.N. "When two states negotiated, there would be more equality in addressing the issues."
Diliani says a similar General Assembly resolution recognized Israeli statehood in 1947.
"Israel used a similar process," he says. "The state of Palestine is by any means necessary. And I believe that there is nothing wrong to learn from our adversaries. They were good at something? We'll learn from them."
But he acknowledges that U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state won't necessarily mean peace. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.